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Tokyo Tennis Olympic Women’s Wrap: Big Names Falter as Sabalenka, Swiatek, Kvitova knocked out in Second Round

No. 3-seeded Aryna Sabalenka lost to Donna Vekic in a three-set Olympic battle. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

By: Thomas Cluck

The Tokyo 2020/2021 Olympic Games women’s tennis tournament had been a straightforward one for the seeds with most advancing comfortably through the first three days of play- world number one and newly-minted Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia the very notable exception. Until it wasn’t.

On day three, three of the biggest medal contenders in this women’s singles draw faltered, lead by a potential gold medal favorite in the big-hitting Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka succumbing to a very game opponent in talent-rich Croatian Donna Vekic. In the middle of the day on Centre Court in as big a match as these Olympics have seen thus far at the Ariake Coliseum, it was Vekic who came up with the goods in the big moments and big points, out-hitting the monstrous groundstrokes of her opponent somehow to win 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 in a thriller until the very end.

It wasn’t just Sabalenka who crashed out; 2020 Roland Garros winner Iga Swiatek of Poland, another top contender, couldn’t get past another tough draw in the in-form Paula Badosa Gibert of Spain, falling in straight sets 6-3, 7-6. Rio 2016 bronze medalist Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic went out meekly to Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck, failing to muster even a single game in the final set as she suffered a bagel to lose 5-7, 6-3, 6-0.

Paula Badosa of Spain toppled sixth-seeded Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-3, 7-6(4). EPA-EFE/Leszek Szymanski POLAND OUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Of course, the biggest name of all in this tournament, host Japan’s Naomi Osaka, went through over a sneakily-tough second-round draw in Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic, winning 6-3, 6-2 with no drama. Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, fresh off her wedding to fellow tennis player, Frenchman Gael Monfils, fought off the big shots of Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic, moving on 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. 

Czech Karolina Pliskova held off Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro, coming back from defeating cancer, in three sets 6-3, 6-7, 6-1 while her countrywoman and 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejickova defeated young Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez in comfortable fashion 6-2, 6-4. It was light work as well for Spaniard Garbine Muguruza over China’s Wang Qiang winning 6-3, 6-0 while Swiss Belinda Bencic beat Japan’s Misaki Doi also in straight sets 6-2, 6-4. 

Tomorrow’s action will see two big third-round matches take Centre Court as Osaka faces 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Voundrousova, a tricky Czech lefty, before Greece’s Maria Sakkari sees Svitolina. Pliskova takes on dangerous Italian Camila Giorgi later on Court 2.